Since Macworld Expo Boston 1992, we’ve shared our thoughts on the most notable and noteworthy products, companies, booths, events, or just about anything else, from nearly every Macworld Expo.
Just as with last year’s Macworld New York, Apple nearly stole the show with new hardware announcements during Steve Jobs’s keynote address. We were pleased to discover a number of other pieces of hardware worth mentioning, too.
Best Thing to Stick to the Wall — If you’re one of those people who brainstorms everything on a whiteboard, you must check out Virtual Ink’s Mimio, a $500 whiteboard capture device. Unlike Smart Technologies’ Smart Board (which we noted at the Jan-97 Macworld Expo), the Mimio is a meter long bar that attaches to the edge of any normal whiteboard with suction cups, and connects via USB to a Mac or PC. Standard dry-erase markers fit into special pen holders, and the system uses a combination of ultrasound and infrared to translate pen or eraser strokes on the whiteboard to the virtual whiteboard in Mimio’s software. The software also lets you record an entire whiteboard presentation for later playback, and remap the pen colors to match hues other than the standard red, green, blue, and black (it comes with those four holders and you can buy more). Still lacking in the Macintosh version is the capability to transmit whiteboard presentations live over the Internet. [ACE]
A Clear Case for New Speakers — Except for people who are serious about gaming or MP3s, most of us either don’t much think about computer speakers, or have some random set of "multimedia" speakers that are better than a computer’s built-in speakers, but don’t set the ears to tingling. Harman Kardon is changing that, first with the crystal clear iSub subwoofer they introduced at Macworld Expo in San Francisco in January, and now with the equally transparent SoundSticks speakers they were selling in a $200 bundle with the iSub. Plus, Apple tapped Harman Kardon for the round speakers included with Apple’s slick new Power Mac G4 Cube. [ACE]
First and Goal for USB Servers — We swear by the little devices that can restart crashed Mac servers automatically – Sophisticated Circuit’s PowerKey Pro and Rebound, Neuron Data Systems’ MacCoach, and Kernel Productions’ Lazarus (see "The Battle of the Bouncers" beginning in TidBITS-439 for comparisons). But all of those rely on ADB to communicate with the Mac, so they don’t work with modern USB-only Macs. Worse, USB itself is usually taken out in a crash, preventing Command-Control-Power from restarting the machine. Luckily, Sophisticated Circuits has just released Kickoff, which toggles power to the Mac whenever the Mac stops responding to Kickoff’s periodic tickles over USB. The football-shaped translucent graphite Kickoff costs $179 – more than the ADB-only Rebound and equivalent to the PowerKey Pro – thanks to needing a separate power supply. [ACE]
Best Replacement for 3D Glasses — 3D Scan takes the prize for the coolest scanner add-on with their $300 Lightshow, a hood that fits over most scanners and enables you to scan three dimensional objects. The hood is almost entirely mirrored inside and has special lights that match the color spectrum of most scanners (contact 3D Scan for a list of incompatible scanners). The resulting scans start off being two-dimensional, although the addition of a program called Canoma lets you perform some 3D modeling, and you can also rotate an object and stitch multiple scans together into a QuickTime VR movie. Although the Lightshow works with most scanners, its operation varies with different scanners, depending on how high above the surface the scanner can focus. A digital camera could produce similar images, but the beauty of Lightshow scans is that they are high quality and include just the scanned object, with no background. [ACE]
The Need for Speed — Apple introduced its new Power Mac G4 minitower computers with built-in gigabit Ethernet at Macworld, and TidBITS sponsor Farallon Communications was ready with the first in its series of new "Gigabit Over Copper" products. Shipping in August are the Fast Starlet Gig Switch/4T, a four-port switch designed to handle 100Base-T or 1000Base-T (gigabit) connections; and the NetLINE Gigabit PCI card, an add-on card to bring gigabit Ethernet into existing desktop machines. If you now have a 100Base-T network, even putting just your server on a gigabit connection can dramatically improve client connections, as they’ll no longer be sharing a single 100 Mbps pipe to the server. Naturally, you can link these switches to one another, and switches with more ports are expected soon. Through the end of the year (or while supplies last) Farallon will include two or more Timbuktu Pro licenses (from their old friends at Netopia) with each gigabit product purchased. [MHA]